Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, has told Japan's Asahi TV that he is against the hereditary succession of power in the North but has accepted his father's decision. "Personally, I'm against the three generations of hereditary succession," he said. "But I also think there were internal factors behind the decision, and if it is the case, then we should follow that." He added, "I hope my brother does his best to make the lives of North Koreans better. I'll be happy to offer him my help when he needs it from overseas."
Kim Jong-nam is Kim Jong-il's son with his first wife Song Hye-rim. In 2001, when his mother became estranged from his father, Jong-nam became the subject of embarrassing headlines worldwide by being caught trying to enter Japan on a forged passport, ostensibly to visit Disneyland. He has lived in virtual exile in recent years, shuttling between Beijing and Macau.
Now that he has publicly voiced his opposition to his younger brother Kim Jong-un's designation as North Korea's next leader, it seems impossible for him to return even though he is the eldest son of its incumbent leader. A South Korean government source on Tuesday said close associates of Kim Jong-un were planning some kind of punishment for Kim Jong-nam for making rash comments overseas, but China warned them off touching him on Chinese territory. If that is true, Kim Jong-nam faces a tenuous future.
North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun daily in an editorial on Oct. 4 stressed unity as the underlying strength of the country and urged North Koreans to "continue the struggle" without forgetting that they are all "descendants of Kim Il-sung." But an actual descendant of the North Korean founder, his eldest grandson and first son of the North's present leader, has become the first one to break away from that unity. North Koreans have to be tight-lipped, but there are probably scores of them who share Kim Jong-nam's sentiments.
The senior-most North Korean defector, Hwang Jang-yop, said shortly before his death Sunday, "The third generation of hereditary succession will cause a power struggle and the Kim dynasty will fall into ruin." The North Korean nuclear situation appears headed for an even more unstable future in this melodrama of a feudal dynasty, leaving everything in the hands of an ailing dictator and his inexperienced 27-year-old son.